Rep. Tom DeLay said District Attorney Ronnie Earle, who is prosecuting him for trying to involve corporate money in Texas politics, has taken such contributions himself.
“It’s real interesting he has this crusade against corporate funds. He took corporate funds, and he’s taken union funds, for his own re-election. That’s against the law,” Mr. DeLay told The Washington Times yesterday.
A review of Mr. Earle’s campaign-finance filings in Texas shows that he has received contributions from the AFL-CIO, including a $250 donation on Aug. 29, 2000. He also has received contributions listed on the disclosure forms only as coming from the name of an incorporated entity, often a law firm.
Mr. Earle has said repeatedly that state law bars corporate and union contributions. Attempts to reach Mr. Earle yesterday for comment, including a phone message left on his assistant’s voice mail detailing Mr. DeLay’s charge, were unsuccessful.
The prosecutor for Travis County, Texas, has secured indictments against Mr. DeLay on charges of conspiracy to violate campaign-finance laws, money laundering and conspiracy to launder money.
He argues that a political action committee founded by Mr. DeLay and run by associates of his collected corporate money and sent a check for $198,000 to the Republican National State Elections Committee (RNSEC), an arm of the Republican National Committee. The RNSEC then contributed money to state candidates in Texas — donations that Mr. Earle says were an attempt to funnel corporate contributions into state races.
Mr. DeLay followed House Republican rules and stepped down as majority leader after the first indictment Sept. 28.
Party leaders have said he will return to his leadership post if he defeats the charges, but Mr. DeLay said he intends to run for the House again even if he is not majority leader.
“That’s up to the people I represent, but I’m confident they’ll send me back to do their work,” he said. “No matter what title they give me back in Washington, I’m ‘congressman’ first. I intend to run, I intend to run harder than ever before, and I intend to win.”
Mr. DeLay was interviewed by The Times in the majority leader’s room just down the hallway from the front entrance to the House floor. He said he is eager to advance House Republicans’ agenda and said for now he will fill the role of adviser to the leaders.
He said he and House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican, have forged a long partnership.
“He has expressed it this way — I have institutional knowledge that’s valuable. I have an energy level that’s valuable. I have assets that are valuable. The leader’s staff is still in place,” he said. “I think most of the members will find there’s not much, as far as their ability to have input into the agenda and into the leadership, it’s not going to change a whole lot. So the Democrats did not win.”
Mr. DeLay said the House will tackle most of the major issues that leaders have set out including reducing entitlement spending through the budget process, cutting taxes, passing new energy legislation and approving “a strong border-security bill and a bill that forces the government to enforce our immigration laws.”
The Texan said his legal defense is simple.
“Money raised legally by corporations was sent to the RNSEC. They took that money — what is it, Texas is only one of 16 states that forbids corporate funds to be in campaigns, the vast majority of the country’s campaigns can accept corporate money — that money went to them,” he said. “In fact, $1.4 million was sent to Texas [by the RNSEC], not just $198,500.”